US will distribute seized Iranian assets to terrorism victims
US attorney Preet Bharara said Judge Katherine Forrest approved the deal between the US government and 19 holders of more than US$5 billion (Dh18.36bn) in terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.
Thursday’s deal calls for the Manhattan building and other forfeited assets to be sold by the US Marshals Service, with the US government receiving reimbursement for litigation expenses and any costs of the sales before the rest is distributed to victims of terrorist attacks. The agreement stems from a 2008 lawsuit by the government against the building’s owners.
Although Iran there is no evidence that Iran was involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Iranian assets will be distributed to the estates of victims killed on that day.
Mr Bharara said the settlement is an important step toward “completing what will be the largest ever terrorism-related forfeiture and providing a substantial recovery for victims of terrorism”.
Besides September 11 victims, the settling creditors include families and estates of victims of the 1983 terrorist bombings of US Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and terrorist attacks in Israel and elsewhere.
The government said buildings also will be sold in Queens, Texas, California, Virginia and Maryland.
Prosecutors said funds will be drawn from bank accounts formerly in the name of entities that served as fronts for the Iranian government. The properties’ estimated total worth was not provided.
The judge ruled last September that the Manhattan office tower was subject to forfeiture because revenue from it was secretly funnelled to a state-owned Iranian bank in violation of a US trade embargo.
The US government had said the Alavi Foundation’s sole partner in the ownership of the Manhattan building was a shell company fronting for a secret interest held by the state-owned bank of Iran, Bank Melli. The Iranian government has been designated by the US as a sponsor of international terrorism, an allegation it has repeatedly denied.
* Associated Press
Updated: April 18, 2014 04:00 AM